Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı)
World-famed as the largest of several hundred ancient city cisterns, this 6th century cistern lies beneath Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia. Located in the crowded Eminönü district of Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern has the capacity to hold 80,000 cubic meters of water and was at one time Istanbul’s primary water source. It’s star attractions are 336 ornate Byzantine columns and two stone Medusa heads. The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 3.5 meters and coated with mortar to make it waterproof. If you are feeling cheesy, you can dress up as Ottoman emperors and empresses and get your photos taken.
Our Take: While very interesting, we wouldn’t recommend Basilica Cistern as a must-visit while in Istanbul. The line to enter was very long and the whole experience felt like we were on a Disneyland ride with hordes of people shuffling from one picture platform to another. The old-world staged photo booth took it over the top for us.
Basilica Cistern Essentials
Entrance Fee: 20.00 Turkish Lira
Visiting Hours: Summer Between 09:00 – 19:00 Hours / Winter Between 09:00 – 16:00 Hours
Closed Days: Open Every Day (Open Days & Hours may change by Official & Public Holidays)
Website: Basilica Cistern Website